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How to make a pumkin stencil

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Maybe you've been freehanding your pumpkin all these years—three triangles for eyes and a nose, a crescent grin that shows a couple of teeth. But have you noticed the more elaborate pumpkin stencils that appear around Halloween? You can get them in store-bought kits, and with the right carving tools you can make a Halloween pumpkin that's as elaborate as a Dali painting.

Although it's easy to buy pumpkin stencils at your local craft store (and many pumpkin stencil kits come with appropriate pumpkin-carving utensils) you can also make your own pumpkin stencils based on whatever design you want. It's easy to find Halloween-themed pumpkin stencils like witches, cats, or ghosts, but what if you want to branch out a little? You can easily make your own, so there's no need to depend on store-bought designs.

First, find a picture that you like—or draw one yourself! Try to get one in black and white if possible, or at least something high contrast. (Quick tip: if the picture that you want isn't high contrast enough, scan it into your computer and jack up the contrast using Photoshop or an equivalent program, then print it back out.) This can be a good way to do portraits, for example. It's okay if it's complex, but try to choose one with large light and dark areas for easiest stenciling.

You'll need the following materials (remember that pumpkin carving uses sharp tools and should be done with adult supervision):

-Tracing paper
-A piece of black fabric as big as one side of your pumpkin (cotton works well).
-a scissors
-pumpkin carving tools
-masking tape

Once you have your picture, take a piece of tracing paper and a pencil, and trace your picture. But—and this is the important part—pay attention to negative space. Trace only the outlines of the light parts of your drawing. These are the parts that you'll cut out later.

Next, draw over these outlines with chalk. Then flip the tracing paper over and place it carefully on your dark piece of cloth so that the chalk is against the fabric. Be careful not to move it after you place it.

Then, retrace the same outlines with pencil. Use firm pressure, but not so much that you tear the tracing paper. When you are done, remove the tracing paper.

You should see that chalk outlines have transferred onto the fabric. Using scissors, carefully cut along these lines. You now have your own pumpkin stencil.

Tape the fabric to the pumkin, molding the cloth to the shape of the pumpkin. Then, use your pencil to trace inside the parts that you've cut out.

Remove the cloth and get to work with your knife. Cut the pumpkin along the pencil lines carefully. Use a gentle sawing motion to get the job done. A special pumpkin carving knife works best, but you can also use any reasonably sharp serrated blade.

Now that you know how to easily make your own design, you can easily create pumpkin stencils for your friends and family as well!

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